Tigris Rose reviews “Harold and Maude” (1971)
Harold and Maude (1971)
Director: Hal Ashby
Writer: Colin Higgins
Stars: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles
“Harold and Maude” is kind of a quirky, messed up kind of movie. I can be honest in saying this movie is not for everyone. In reality, it’s not for most people. “Harold and Maude” in the best sense of the word is a dark humor comedy. Morbid really. If you don’t mind movies that pokes fun of death and suicide in a dry, sarcastic, way. However, idealistically idealizes life like a hippy you might enjoy it. Most people in a way will be kind of offended because of how they use suicide as a punch line. But at the same time it uses death and the insight of a very strange old woman to unfold an epiphany of life for Harold.
Harold is a 19 year old, who is obsessed with death. He comes from a very well to do family. So like any aristocratic family in the movies he never really got a lot of attention since he attended boarding school. There was an incident at his school were a boy committed suicide and Harold disappeared. The school, and Harold’s mother thought it was him. The attention that he got the moment that she found out that he was alive was the most he’s ever had. So from that moment on, he stages fake suicides that his mother just learned to ignored. One thing that is kind of funny is that Harold drives a hearse, even after his mother bought him a really nice car he changed it to a hearse.
Now since Harold is obsessed with death he is constantly going to funerals. Doesn’t even matter if he knows the people or not he just shows up. He’s like a lambda who tries to get into a Alpha Beta kegger. But he ends up meeting Maude at one of these funerals, a almost 80 year old woman who’s philosophy of life is kind of like a hippy. It all love, life, and adventures. Almost like this sugar coated cavity because she is so positive about everything. Maude goes to funerals because she is fascinated by people’s rituals around death, and trying to pinpoint when the best age for her to die.
The two of them end up coming together for different reasons. Maude loves life in its entirety and is like a teacher to Harold. Harold has an Oedipus feeling for Maude as she teaches him to love life and move on from the life his mother wants him to have. The have a physical relationship later in the movie and its so wrong.
I love Maude’s view of life. It’s very poetic. She has no boundaries. Near the beginning of the movie to get around before she meets Harold she just takes cars. Borrows them at will to drive where ever she wants. She even gives the cops a run for their money as she takes a policeman’s motorcycle. But she believes in being an individual, living life to the fullest, but at the same time she believes that there is a perfect age that one can die.
Harold is messed up. When the movie first start he tries to hang himself. He tells the shrink that he’s faked about 15 suicides. My favorite one is one of the computer dates his mother fixed him up with is sitting in the parlor with his mother just talking. All the while, Harold is outside were only the girl can see him and he lights himself on fire and she starts freaking out . Then all of a sudden he comes inside without even a scratch as the girl just screams as she runs out of the house.
It is just completely messed up how this movie ends. Maude decides that 80 is the perfect age to die. Before Harold comes over to celebrate her birthday she takes pills in order to kill herself. Despite Harold’s attempt to save her she dies at the hospital. Then Harold basically drives his hearse over a cliff. But it is just his car, because he is on top of the hill and just walks off.
This movie is not for everyone. This is a very eclectic and artsy kind of movie. Its not exactly great cinematography, but it was the early 70’s there aren’t a lot of good artsy films with good cinematography. I’d give the movie a C+. I really enjoy this movie, it is very artsy, but it is very enjoyable. Kind of a really messed up feel good movie. It does make think a bit about life and death, just in a very dark humor kind of way.